Learning How to Tell Time and Quaker Process

I’m enjoying the process of Reading and reflecting on Scripture weekly as I prepare my reflections for our Sunday. This week we’re looking at Luke 12:54-65; 13:6-21. These passages are some of Jesus’ challenges, actions and stories around re-orienting time. They also seem to be good passages to begin a dialogue around Gospel Order, and how as Christians we are oriented around practices of (how we use and understand) time?

I have many questions that run a long the lines of how we might employ this passage in a way that helps us understand and interpret the times. I do think that joining God’s kingdom work is as much about learning how to tell (the) time(s), as it is about responding appropriately when it is time.

In our world today everything is instant, high-speed and choatic. What does Jesus’ short little stories here teach us about time that challenges our own 21st century understanding and practice?

In our world where voting is an integral part of  decision-making, how do we create communities that not only value the careful (and sometimes tedious) process of discerning the “Sense of the Meeting” (similar to, though not equal with, the more popular notion of consensus), but who are disciplined enough to actual do it?

How does Jesus’ action in this passage with healing the “Bent Women” reframe the Jewish understanding of Sabbath? And if it stresses the now-ness of the Kingdom, a sudden impulse that cannot, and will not, wait, then how are we to hold in tension that follows from these two parables below?

What about the final two stories of the kingdom in this short selection?

“It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”” (Luke 13:19-21 NRSV)

I think, based on some of the reading I’ve been doing, that both these passages are oriented around how time is understood.  Two key insights Ryan Bolger writes about in “Jesus For and Against Modernity,” is that the first story indicates that the kingdom was in-breaking, but in small and unexpected ways.  I might add, following John Caputo’s own perspective, that the kingdom appears weak and relies on the power of powerlessness to transform. Secondly, the final parable above is related to the slow process of change that took place in Jesus’ ministry. “The leaven is to work itself through all of Israel and it will not be a quick change.”

I see all these questions, and the final two reflections as bearing weight on our understanding of Quaker process, silent or Open Worship, and our taking time to develop as people who can sustain these practices.

We do need to constantly learn how to slow down, and at the same time listen within the choas and noise of our world. This is far easier said than done, and because of this I believe that Quaker process and Gospel Order are relevant concepts, and practices in our world today. We still need to learn how to tell time.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

5 thoughts on “Learning How to Tell Time and Quaker Process”

  1. I am reminded of a talk by Tom Mullen he gave to Moorestown Friends School almost 30 years ago. One of his premises was that the digital watch/clock was a symptom of our time that needed to be carefully watched. He said that with a digital time there tended to be no past and no future. When asked what time is it, people often now say the "exact" time. Fifteen past the hour, 20 til the hour, etc. were leaving our conversation. "Living in the moment" has not assisted this trend.

    Friends process, including waiting and listening, requires attention to the past, present and future implications (7th generation?)

    Slow down and smell the roses, might be adapted to "Slow down and feel the Spirit."

  2. I recall another reading of the mustard seed parable. I think it was by Walter Wink, but am not sure. Might have been Marcus Borg or John Dominic Crossan.

    The mustard seed represents an invasive weed. It starts as a small seed that can sprout in the regular rows of a field. It grows wildly, not respecting the human-created furrows. The birds come and scatter the seeds, causing the bushes to multiply even more. In this interpretation, the Kingdom of God is not tame, it does not necessarily respect human boundaries, and it is growing all the time.

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